Fickle moon

As the sun sets
so the day sags
evenings can be
so long

stars so distant
and the moon
so fickle

At dawn the silence
is broken – foxes
gnashing their teeth

sparrows restless
in their nests – magpies
already getting down
to business

I have places to go
things to do and
words to say such as
I love you

John Lyons

Alors que le soleil se couche
alors le jour s’affaisse
les soirées peuvent être
si longues

les étoiles si lointaines
et la lune
si inconstante

A l’aube le silence
est cassé – les renards
grincent des dents

les moineaux agités
dans leurs nids – les pies
déjà au travail

j’ai des endroits où aller
des choses à faire et
des mots à dire comme
Je t’aime


An idle world

The first heavy frost
of the season
windows and roofs
and ponds all iced up

I notice the silence
of the birds
the stillness
in the garden –

the cats must be
having a lie in
the plump foxes
are nowhere

to be seen
Sometimes it’s
an idle world and
that’s a good thing

John Lyons

Lorine Niedecker : an appreciation


Lorine Niedecker : an appreciation

As night fell
           and the waters calmed
the churn of words
           within her

He fished the river
           his glass never empty
small fry he caught
           but he was there

the poetry buried
           within her
the thoughts
           and the feelings

guided by the stars
           darkness was a revelation
love might never come but
           breath most precious of all

John Lyons



Simplicity, John Lyons (oil on canvas)


Poetry —many things
          including a place
of repose
          when we are time-sick
Soon the leaves
          will come tumbling
down in cascades
          borne on gusts of wind
raked up and bagged
          on our streets

And as the nights
          close in
peace will descend
          and we will have
sessions of sweet
          silent thought
and true value
          will warm our blood

John Lyons

Lorine Niedecker

Lorine Niedecker

I think of Lorine her life
on the edge of water

the gliding river
or lake or swamp

and the simplicity
and the beauty of the poetry

she made from leaves
or broken reeds

floating on the surface
from carp swimming below

the hum of summer
and the slow burn of time

the hours fishing the shallows
with a hook and line

and the silent words
seeping into her soul

John Lyons


song sparrow
The song sparrow


Rainy day
          In the silence
         yellow warblers
and wild canaries
                  Bushes in bloom
                  Japanese quince

A lawn full of dandelions
Two rows of lettuce
         sown today
I get song sparrows
northern yellow-throats

From the kitchen
casement window
         I see fireflies at night
The shade of the Sugar Maple
                  is a blessing

                  one of many

John Lyons

The above poem draws data from two letters written by Lorine Niedecker to Louis Zukofsky.



Lorine Niedecker

Lorine Niedecker

Lorine Niedecker was born in 1903 in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, and lived in this wilderness area for most of her life. Her isolation from other writers and the beauty of her natural surroundings had a profound impact on her work. Niedecker chose to write in seclusion, and many of her closest relatives and neighbors were unaware that she was a poet. She had a brief relationship with the poet Louis Zukofsky in New York, but apart from that she continued to live in relative obscurity. In later years she was befriended by the British poet, Basil Bunting, the author of Briggflats, and one-time disciple of Ezra Pound; but for much of her life she lived in poverty, earning her living as a cleaning lady in a Fort Atkinson hospital. Since her death on 31 December 1970, her reputation as one of the most significant American poets of the 20th century has grown enormously. At the core of her writing are terse observations of her rural environment: the birds, trees, water and marshland that surrounded her.

For a selection of Lorine Niedecker’s poems see


John Lyons